Filling a Hole; how we started our horse program (p. 2 of 3)
If this doesn't make you smile!

Filling a Hole; how we started our horse program (p. 3 of 3)

Teen kate at horse camp
a teenage Kate at horse camp (middle)
When I was 14 or so, my parents bought a horse and let it stay at Plum Nearly Ranch in Beaumont. I volunteered at the ranch often. I even snuck out and rode my bike six miles to visit my horse and got into a lot of trouble for going there without telling my folks! I learned to ride at the ranch, too. My parents were going through a divorce. While my family was falling apart, my heart was locked on to the the steadiness and love of my Arabian horse. He was a place of focus and refuge for my soul. He loved me back, listened to my secrets, and let me ride on him. I loved the smell of the stables and the sound of hooves clogging the ground. I scooped poop, I bathed and groomed horses, I volunteered as often as I could. 
I loved horses so much, I had picked out an equine college I wanted to attend because I wanted to be a horse trainer. My parents weren't keen on the idea and said, 'No.' I ended up becoming a fanatical Christian, decided to give up everything important to me as a sacrifice to God, and ultimately, I went to a Bible College instead of equine. Meanwhile, my dad sold my horse while I was on a mission trip to Russia, and understandably, since my life was changing, but it hurt. He did it without telling me, probably because it was nearly impossible to reach me in Russia in the early 90's. 

Edith and abbi
Horses teach disclipline
Fast forward to when I was a grownup with children, my daughter Butterfly would spend hours musing over books full of horse pictures. She loved horses. Maybe it is in our genes? (I just discovered my great-great-grandfather was a horse cart maker!) Knowing how special horses were to me in my youth, I made a commitment to her that I would get her a horse one day before she was 16. (Take the time to Google why every child should own a pony).
A few years later, we bought our land and started
developing it; we had lived in Kenya for nine years at that time. Imagine my surprise when I found that near our newly purchased plot, there was a horse show going on! I attended the show with several of my daughters. We were watching on with so much excitement. HORSES! EVERYWHERE! My heart exploded. I had no idea there were people actually riding and showing horses in Kenya! And at the foot of my hillside, no doubt! 
The wheels started turning. I've lived in Kenya nine (now 13) years and hadn't known of any organised activities like this! I knew I wanted my kids (ALL of them) to experience the discipline and love horses bring. So I went on a quest to find a horse for The Shire. I built a small stable, too. I even designed our barn/house with horses in mind, but we are still living in it! I began clearing brush and rocks to make paddocks, making them safe as well as fencing them. My children also helped by digging up weeds and dangerous plants. I asked a lot of questions from locals such as where to buy a horse and had a difficult time getting answers. A 'newbie' doesn't just get a horse easily in Kenya; it's all rather secret, and rightfully so since they deserve understanding and a clean, safe environment! My neighbors with horses educated me on where to buy feed, who the best farrier was, etc... I learned that owning a horse in Kenya is relatively inexpensive when compared to owning one in the USA.
Finally, someone sold me an old thoroughbred who had arthritis and no teeth. (Never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say). They gave me some tack to go with him as well, including an old saddle and bridle. I had no idea of his age issues, but I was so happy to have a HORSE. The kids loved him, and not long after we got him, someone gave us another horse... with issues. It was a learning curve, but on those two horses, I taught our dozen kids how to ride with the little knowledge I had attained in my youth from Plum Nearly Ranch. 
How we started
a very dedicated Butterfly teaching her sister
One of our adopted daughters (nameless because it might be embarrassing for her) had many issues. She wouldn't speak to me. She wet the bed from the time she was four even up until adolescence... After we got our horses, and she was interacting with them, riding them, etc..  she started talking to me. She no longer avoided eye contact with me. She began telling me about her day. She loved riding. She stopped wetting the bed, and things changed. This change scientifically could have been caused by many factors, but as her mom I am just saying, she changed.
As I began noticing these changes, I started doing some research. I contacted the lady who gave us a horse because she was doing the only equine assisted therapy I knew of. I asked to volunteer and see what she was doing. I had NEVER heard of doing therapy using horses before. It sounded flaky, to be honest, BUT when I volunteered, I was touched. The children showed remarkable improvements both 
Edith and star and abbi
Horses bond sisters together
physically and mentally from their sessions with the horses. And despite being disabled, horses gave them a time of normalcy where every one was equal and on the same level. I was interested, but not completely convinced, so...
I began to do more research online to discover that horse therapy has actually been going on for AGES. How I missed this, I do not know. It only makes sense since humans and horses have been bonding and working together for millennia!! From farming to transportation, wars to therapy... Horses have carried us through history. We can't deny our connection and just forget about them. Horses are a part of us.*

As I studied, I learned that research in Japan has proven riding horses affects the linguistic side of the brain due to the rhythm of their walk. People with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's are using horses to help them by-pass the part of their brain that is giving them issues, and gets them calm and steady while in the saddle. I learned that they help build core strength and develop muscles in children who are weak. They, being flight creatures, can sense our emotions and reflect how we feel like mirrors because they must do that in a herd to save themselves.
If one is afraid, they all are afraid. This is something that gives them the ability to see into our souls with those huge eyes. They can bring healing... 
Mom and daughter
A relieved mom with her autistic daughter at Horsepower. Click for video
....that was when I realized that THAT was what I was looking for. Before we brought horses to the Shire, I struggled to connect with my Kenyan daughters. I didn't have a common ground with them. Horses filled a void that I hadn't realized was there, and I began to think that maybe- just maybe, I could help other parents with that very same problem. Maybe I could help parents whose children had special needs, were disabled, or troubled in some way. Maybe the horses and I could bring something to Kenya that fills people with hope in a tangible, almost physical way. Here was my chance to bring back my youthful love for horses, and share it with others, giving them a chance for a future and a hope. 
Here's our most recent Horsepower video!
*Because of the history horses have with humans, we still use the word 'horsepower' to describe our engines. For this reason, we call our program "Horsepower" to remind us of this connection from past to present and the impact horses are still making on the hearts of humans.
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